Ensuring a green clean and healthy environment for sustainable development

Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) form the pillar of Rwanda’s economy and the livelihoods of Rwandans.  To achieve national sustainable development and make good progress towards Vision 2020, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) will continually depend on the rational utilization of ENR.

Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) form the pillar of Rwanda’s economy and the livelihoods of Rwandans.  To achieve national sustainable development and make good progress towards Vision 2020, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) will continually depend on the rational utilization of ENR. 

Rwanda’s socioeconomic transformation cannot be realised without primarily addressing environment and natural resources management challenges.  Various initiatives that include policy, legislation and public awareness programmes among others, are currently in place and are being applied to address the challenges.

REMA is mandated to facilitate coordination and oversight of the implementation of national environmental policy and the subsequent legislation.

REMA has a key role to play towards the achievement of the national goal of sustainable development as set out in the National Development Vision 2020.

REMA Vision and Mission

All sectors of the Rwanda society value and undertake sound environmental management and rational use of natural resources in order to contribute to the national aspirations for sustainable development.


To promote and unsure the protection of the environment and sustainable use of natural resources through decentralized structures of governance and seek a national position to emerging global issues with a view to enhancing the wellbeing of the Rwanda people.

The alarming rate of environmental destruction as a result of population pressure, serious erosion, pressure on natural resources, massive deforestation, pollution in its various forms etc. necessitated the Government, to form REMA to coordinate, supervise and regulate environmental management for sustainable development in Rwanda.
To achieve its objectives, REMA has to work with and through public, private sector and civil societies. Thus, the structure of REMA accommodates operational links at these levels in order to enhance service delivery to its stakeholders. Two types of environmental management functions, have to be given thorough consideration in the process of preparing the structure of REMA:

Sectoral Environmental Management Functions relating to specific natural resources or environmental services such as agriculture, water, mining, forestry, waste management etc.

Coordination and integration of environmental management functions in relation to cross-cutting issues such as monitoring and evaluation of environmental policy and implementation of environmental legislation, are a prelude of REMA.

Clean and healthy environment, a responsibility of all—Dr Rose Mukankomeje

REMA was established by law no 16/2006. The Authority has four directorates tat include; Environmental Regulation and Pollution Control, Education and Mainstreaming, Research and Environmental Planning and the Directorate of Climate Change and International Obligations.

Rwanda is a landlocked country with topography characterized by a vast number of hills and mountains which result in high soil erosion and loss of water.

The critical environmental problems in Rwanda therefore include; overexploitation of natural resources, improper usage of marginal lands, distribution of water, encroachment on forests and national parks,
As an implementing authority of environmental policies, REMA ensures that every person in Rwanda has a fundamental right to live in a healthy and balanced environment.

In order to create harmony between nature and development, all development activities are based on sustainable and equitable use of resources i.e. meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

So REMA instituted an integrated and multi-sectoral system approach to resource planning and environmental management.

REMA has been able to protect the major wetlands especially those that fall in sheds of; Rugezi Complex/ Kamiranzovu, Bugesera-Rweru and Akagera Complex. The rehabilitation of Rugezi complex has saved the country about $65,000 that was being spent daily to power Kigali and the neighbouring areas.

To ensure the enforcement of the organic law, REMA works with local leaders and the Police, who have as well been trained on environmental related issues.

National Environmental Youth Project
There are a number of youths that are not employed. REMA decided to work with some of them in stepping up conservation efforts under the National Environmental Youth Project. They have been especially instrumental in rehabilitating the banks of River Nyabarongo and its tributaries.

As per article 85 of the environmental law, agricultural activities are supposed to respect a distance of 10 meters away from the banks of streams and rivers and 50 meters away from the banks of lakes.

The youths are therefore involved in ensuring that the 5 meters from the banks are dotted with natural vegetation and the rest of the area of up to 10 and 50 meters respectively are planted with other grasses such as reeds, bamboo, etc. This has greatly helped in binding soils together, prevented river/lake silting and keeping the waters clean. Besides, the youths get employed, paid through the bank and therefore acquire financial discipline.

Holistic approach
There is an increasing need for the tenets of multi-sectoral planning without one sector compromising the drive of the other. The need for increasing crop yields, for example, may call for the usage of fertilizers. But in the long-run when the fertilizers change the chemical composition of the soil, and leached into the rivers and or other reservoirs, then more money will be spent on treating water and or buying drugs to treat the resultant diseases. So there is a need for pro-active planning to prevent such scenarios.

Climate Change issues
As a consequence of unsustainable development, the industries that have so developed exude greenhouse gases, increase temperatures, create environmental disequilibrium and upsetting the ecological balance altogether.

Aridity, where it occurs affects economic activities—farming, cattle rearing and power generation. In some parts of Rwanda where the temperatures have increased such as Ruhengeri, mosquitoes are now found there, of which presence has got health and budget implications.

UNFCCC, through the Kyoto Protocol therefore encouraged industrialized countries to adapt appropriate technology and transfer to the poor countries and avail funds to poor countries so that they can adapt too.

REMA strongly encourages;
Planting trees and re-forestation
Efforts to walk small distances
Terracing to avoid soil/land degradation
Raise environment awareness
Be resilient to change
Continued ban of the polythene materials

Changing mindset on environment through Education and mainstreaming

Since its inception in 2006, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has taken the environmental protection campaign to centralized and decentralized levels through environment protection committees. Through environment education programs, school environment clubs were established in the knowledge that children in school will go back to their parents and transfer this knowledge.

 School teachers of environment related subjects; geography, Chemistry and biology were trained in environmental issues. At primary level, directors of schools and science teachers were trained. These teachers became patrons of these clubs.

Through environmental committees from district to village level, environment education programs have been established based on a strategy:  Environmental Education for Sustainable Development strategy developed in 2010.

 “Knowledge is power and communication helps deliver the knowledge,” says Rachael Tushabe, the acting Director Environment Education and Mainstreaming.

According to Tushabe, the official environment knowledge amongst local leaders and the general population has improved drastically over the years. The environment is now more than forests.

Tushabe adds: “In 2008, District Mayors, while presenting their performance contracts would only talk of planting trees as a means of protecting the environment. In 2009 they added terracing; in 2010 they were talking about protecting wetlands.

This year there is a campaign spearheaded by the Ministry of Local Government on green clean environment. They are looking at issues like energy saving while cooking, personal hygiene, and sanitation. This gives a holistic approach to tackling environmental issues.”

Environmental education

Environmental education has been integrated in all lessons in schools; it is now cross-cutting in all subjects. Curriculum developers have been trained to emphasize this concern. At the National University of Rwanda a centre for sustainable development has been established.


REMA works with different Civil Societies and other non-governmental organizations.  These organizations participate in the preparation of sector strategic plans. They (NGO’s and civil society) have come together to form the Rwanda environmental NGO’s forum for proper coordination of their activities.

NGO’s under their umbrella are given training because many of them are still very young and need support.


“There is still a lot to do to make environment issues known to the masses especially in rural areas,” Tushabe admits.  “We usually hold sensitization campaigns especially during the World Environment Day celebrations that start with umuganda of every end of May to the 5th June of every year.”

During the Week environment protection activities are held countrywide culminating in the celebration of World Environment Day that falls every 5th of June. REMA holds media campaigns, competitions in schools, among others, during this period. 

Promoting a clean green environment

Building on last year’s successful hosting of World Environment Day, this year the government is putting emphasis on promoting a clean and green environment. This year’s theme is: ‘Forests, Nature at Your Service’. Focus will be at services that nature provides. 

Celebrations started on 28th May with the monthly community work characterized by weeding and pruning already planted trees to show cause for the international year of forests and the theme.

Several other activities are planned like launching of energy saving stoves, water projects, and inspection of homes, schools’ competition and biogas promotion. The green and clean environment campaign will last for a month—28th May t0 25th June 2011. It is spearheaded by the Ministry of Local Government in partnership with all stakeholders in environment management.

“We call upon all Rwandans to be part of the campaign. Environment is like a religion and a belief if everybody knows the cause for the environment and stands up for it I believe Rwanda will be a better place,” says Tushabe.

Environmental Regulations and Pollution Control

The department is responsible for developing environmental management guidelines, provide expertise on safe management of goods, control and advice on suitability of sites, coordinate enforcement activities with technical staff including overall supervision of environmental audits and inspection activities.

The department also oversees the development of programmes for prevention and control of pollutants including hazardous substances and wastes and collect samples from water, soil, and discharges for field and laboratory analyses to determine environmental quality and compliance.

It is this department that also carries out audits of projects and  develops  Environment Impact Assessments tools.

According to the head of the department Remy Norbert Duhuze, sector-specific guidelines for environmental impact assessment have been developed e.g. for housing, roads, water resources management among others.

The department controls substances that are not allowed e.g gases that deplete the ozone layer i.e. the chloro fluruo carbon.

As for the expired, damaged or substandard goods, the department provides technical support and or advice on the best way they can be disposed of, whether they are to be buried, incinerated or recycled—in the best environmentally friendly way. 

Environmental Auditsfor the mining sector/concessions and the printing industry are underway.

There are 38 protected wetlands in the country where agriculture is prohibited, and the department ensures that this is respected. Others are ensuring the respect of the distance of 10 meters from river banks and 50 meters from lake shores for any activity to take place.

“The department works with the Rwanda National Police to ensure that environment laws are enforced. And because many of them have been trained by REMA on environmental issues, sometimes they do the enforcement without the involvement of REMA staff,” says Duhuze.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Under the Cleaner Production Programme, industrial captains have been trained on the best way to reduce raw material, waste and energy consumption while maintaining productivity.

The first phase benefited nine industries—Ameki color, Inyange Industries, Nyabisindu Dairy, Rwandafoam, Rwanda Leather Industry, SULFO, Chillington and UTEXRWA.

The second phase benefited other industries and hotels especially on water and energy consumption reduction, and proprietors were taken on a study tour in Kenya.

REMA also promotes Recycling programmes, used plastics such as plastics bags used for covering mosquito nets are recycled into useful materials such as tubbing. Other types of used plastic bags are recycled into plastics used for greenhouses.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third conference of the Parties (COP3) in 1997 and came into force on 5th Feb 2005. The protocol requires developed countries that have ratified the protocol to limit their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the period 2008-20121 by an agreed amount relative to their emissions in 1990.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) accepted the ratification of the government of Rwanda in August 1998 and the Rwandan Parliament the Kyoto Protocol in July 2005. In September 2005, the Designated National Authority (DNA) was established, hosted by REMA. The DNA also coordinates voluntary carbon market (VCM) projects in Rwanda.

What is CDM 
CDM is a flexibility mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol that allows countries meet part of their emission reduction targets by buying Certified Emission Reductions from projects hosted in countries with no obligation to reduce emissions.

“In other words, CDM is a joint implementation in a partnership between developed and developing countries. Developed countries have to reduce Co2 to 5.2% from the 1990 levels. But because they cannot have the reduction in their own countries, they support projects in developing countries that do not emit greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The amount of carbon sold on the carbon market is that which has been kept away from emission into the atmosphere,” notes Yves Tuyishime the CDM Development and Investment Promotion Officer.

For a project to qualify, the proprietors have to prepare a Project Idea Note (PIN), after which they are given a letter of no objection. The PIN is forwarded to the Designated National Authority and validated by the Designated Operation Entity which is accredited by UNFCCC. The DOE verifies and monitors the project developer.

In Rwanda, the Energy Efficiency lamps under EWASA were approved by UNFCCC, so Rwanda now sells her (would-be) carbon on the market. The verification will be complete by September 2011 so that EWASA starts effecting selling of carbon.

“Three projects are on validation level and five are at the documentation stage with quite a number at the initiation stage, many of which are in energy efficiency and generation,” says Tuyishime. He adds, “For a private investor in the electricity generating project, has to produce evidence-based projection of the amount of electricity to be sold to the National Grid, and the amount of carbon that clean energy is likely to offset/prevent from being generated.”

Who buys
Developed countries party to the Kyoto Protocol
Voluntary Buyers such as British Airways, KLM, Skynet and Yahoo!

Brokers and bankers.
A buyer then is issued with a Certificate of Emission Reduction (CER). 

Accomplishments to-date
REMA has been able to put in place necessary tools for projects developers. The grid-emission factor, for example, helps hydropower project developers to know the current emission base-lines—the clean, the non-clean, energy consumption, estimates of emission and contribution towards reduction.

National Forestry definition—According to Kyoto Protocol, every country is required to define forestry.
A simplified approval process of projects has been put in place. (Non-objection, 5days, approval 3 weeks)
Staff in public stakeholder institutions have been trained i.e. NAFA, RDB, all district environment and forestry officers, in addition to 150 private sector members from all districts. Bank officials from BNR, BCR, KCB, FINA, Cogebanque and Urwego Opportunity Bank have too been trained. 

Carbon Market Potential Sectors

Energy: Hydropower, micro/pico hydro power, solar electricity, solar water heating, methane from Lake Kivu, biogas recovery from wastewater (domestic, universities, prisons and industries), energy efficient cook stoves and energy efficiency in building. Other opportunities are in the reforestation projects.

Research and environmental Planning

To ensure effective planning, the Research and Planning department of REMA carries one research on crosscutting environmental issues to ensure that policies are implemented and sustainable use of the environment observed.

As provided by the law No 16/2006 of the 03/04/2006 determining the organization, functioning and responsibilities of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) especially in its article 3 stating its main responsibilities; among them to take stock and conduct comprehensive supervision of the environmental management, in order to prepare a report on the state of natural resources in Rwanda that shall be published every two years, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), has carried out the preparation of the State of the Environment Report. This is required to be done for every two years. The Convention on Biological Diversity is implemented within REMA and it is contributing to Biodiversity conservation in the country.

According to Marie Laetitia Busokeye, the head of Research and Planning in REMA, “The research findings that we come up with, act as bedrock for policy makers and other stakeholders in ensuring that the environment is sustainably managed.”

National and International Policy frameworks which guide REMA planning

Vision 2020: Adopted in 2000, and informed by challenges and lessons from post-genocide reconstructions, the Vision 2020 seeks to transform Rwanda from a poor country with a per capita income of under USD 250, to a medium income country of per capita GDP of USD 900. Within the Vision 2020 framework, environment is a cross – cutting issue and its direct implication include :

Transforming from an agrarian economy into a knowledge-based economy. This would imply alleviation of the pressure on arable land;
Reducing the proportion of people earning their livelihoods from agriculture from 90% in 2000 to 50% by 2020;
Reducing wood energy in the national energy consumption from 94 % to 50% by 2020 in order to reduce pressure on natural resources.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): MDG No.7 (achieving environmental sustainability) and MDG No.1 (alleviating poverty) have significantly influenced Rwanda’s environmental agenda over the last 5 years. Three of the most significant targets pursued by Rwanda under MDG 7 are – increasing the proportion of land area covered by forest, increasing access to clean water and sanitation, and improving the lives of slum dwellers.

The Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS): The EDPRS- Rwanda’s second comprehensive national strategy for poverty reduction and economic transformation is premised on the need to enhance national capacity for sustained poverty reduction and economic development. Hence, the strategic focus of the EDPRS is to expand the economic base.

The EDPRS, unlike its predecessor plan, the PRSPI, has a clear focus on pursing environmentally sustainable development. The EDPRS considers environment as a sector which must be mainstreamed into other sectors’ planning processes.

The Protected Areas Biodiversity Project

This project is funded by Global Environmental Facility (GEF) through UNDP and implemented by REMA. The project is under implementation in Nyungwe Forest National Park and the Volcanoes National Park. The objectives are; to ensure that institutions and key stakeholders at central, district and local levels have capacity to manage and conserve natural resources in and around Protected Areas, and to ensure that biodiversity in Nyungwe and Volcanoes Protected System is conserved through knowledge-based adaptive management practices. Another key focus of the project is to increase socio-economic value and financial benefits of the Mountain Forest Protected System to local communities and reduce negative impacts.

According to Mr Raphael Mpayana, the project coordinator, “We deal with the local communities to eradicate hostility between nature and human activities.”


Todate, through the project, RDB-Tourism and Conservation staff have been trained in; Ranger Based Monitoring using MIST software, GIS techniques and conflict resolution.

The project has also given support to REMA and RDB in the formulation of biodiversity and wildlife policies as well as recommendations on the management of the buffer zone of Nyungwe National Park and supported the installation of communication network in the area of Nyungwe,
For the communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park, 12 water tanks have been given out in Musanze (2), Nyabihu (4) and Rubavu (6) in addition to 240,000 agroforestry plants and 446 modern stoves in Musanze.

Under the project, land for 199 marginalised people was purchased and distributed to them in Musanze (2ha) and Rubavu (8ha). A 200m buffalo wall was also completed, 400 farmers were trained in mushroom growing and the gully valleys (ravines) in Musanze (2) and Nyabihu (1) were stabilized.

The Nyungwe National Park communities have benefited thus; 5ha of sisal in Nyamagabe district (6500) plants, bamboo planting in Nyaruguru district (11 ha, 7000 plants), two micro hydro electricity plants in Nyamasheke district, assistance to beekeeping association in Karongi district (48 members) and 20 marginalized families trained in modern pottery in Rusizi district.

In biodiversity conservation, in the Volcanoes NP the registered milestones are; assessment of damage inflicted on vegetation, surveys on status of large birds and mammals,  and assisted Natural Regeneration by removing ferns (igishihe) from a total area of 55764m2.

In the Nyungwe National Park, 95% of exotic trees along the 32km main road were removed and feasibility studies were carried out on carbon sequestration and Payment Ecosystems Services. Others are; Sericostachys monitoring, feasibility study on re-introduction of elephants and biodiversity surveys including camera trapping.

The partners in this project are; RDB-Tourism and Conservation, HELPAGE, CARE, IGCP (International Gorilla Conservation Programme), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), (DFGFI) Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, The Gorilla Organization.

Poverty and Environment Initiative Project

The Rwanda Poverty and Environment Initiative aims at enhancing the contribution of sound environmental management to poverty reduction, sustainable economic growth and achievement of the MDGs

The project funded by UNDP and UNEP addresses issues of poverty and environment. The six outputs of PEI are; improved capacity in relation to poverty environment nexus, increase capacity building, awareness raising, income raising for the environment, monitoring and evaluation and the project management.

“Through the project, a demonstration project was established in Gicumbi, Rubaya sector which was a steeply hilly place and therefore rendered useless because  of the raging erosion,” says Fred Sabiti the project coordinator.

After the PEI intervention, 15 water reservoirs were built to tap the running water, water harvesting is practiced, 43 houses were built for the marginalized, and worked with VUP to build radical terraces. Today the area is productive, mainly growing pyrethrum and cassava throughout the year and seven water harvesting underground tanks were built.

So the project has addressed (in that area) the issues of agriculture, settlement, health (they now get clean water), environment and poverty. The over Rwf100 million project will soon be handed over to MINALOC.

Decentralisation and Environment Management Project

The project is funded by UNDP and implemented by REMA. According to Alphonsine Ntabana the Project coordinator, the project is now operational in Eastern and Western Provinces.

In the Eastern Province, the rehabilitation of Lake Muhazi shores is implemented through TIG with the rate of implementation standing at 80% of the planned area in all 5 districts bordering the lake. The project involves rehabilitating watersheds by digging terraces around 320 ha of progressive terraces in Gasabo and Rwamagana districts.

In the Western Province, DEMPll assisted in establishing tree nurseries for agroforestry, for the rehabilitation of the Lake Kivu watersheds in Rusizi, Nkombo sector. The target is to plant 320,000 trees and to make progressive terraces at 50 ha. A target of 95% has so far been achieved.

Through the project, 21 cooperatives of displaced families from the 50 meter shoreline of Lake Kivu were formed in Rubavu, Nyamasheke, and Rusizi districts. 203 members of cooperatives were trained in cooperatives legislation and project management.

Fishing equipment and their accessories were handed over to 23 people out of the planned 33. 


You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    


Follow The New Times on Google News